Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a Network of Men Leaders on Tuesday to act as role models in the global campaign to end the "pandemic" of violence against women.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is unacceptable that about 70 percent of women experience some form of physical or sexual violence from men _ "the majority from their husbands, intimate partners or someone they know."
He urged men _ young and old _ from countries around the world to join the network and pledge to work to end violence against women and girls wherever it occurs, from the home to conflict areas.
The secretary-general said men "have a crucial role" because they are a major part of the problem and are key to the solution.
Unless men change their attitudes and behavior, he warned, "violence against women will continue."
Ban spoke at the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which falls on Wednesday, and at a news conference. He was joined by several members of the new network and activists campaigning to end violence against women.
The secretary-general said he is "encouraged by the momentum" of the campaign he launched in 2008 called UNiTE to End Violence against Women but felt that as a son, husband, father and grandfather it was essential to launch "a dedicated Network of Men Leaders."
Men must teach each other that real men do not violate or oppress women _ and that a woman's place is not just in the home or in the fields but in schools and offices and boardrooms, Ban said in a statement.
That view was echoed in a video message from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel peace laureate and one of the 14 initial members of the network, who decried the many forms of violence against women and girls including trafficking, child marriage and domestic abuse.
"You are a weak man if you use your physical superiority to assault and brutalize women," Tutu warned.
"The society that permits violence against women is a society that is on the way out," he said. "I will continue fighting until the end of my days for the right of women and girls to live a life free from violence and abuse."
Knut Storberget, Norway's minister of justice and police, another network member, expressed hope that it "will mobilize men worldwide to recognize the responsibility to contributing to change."
"We have a lot to learn from each other," he said. "We are impatient ... and we believe that mobilization of men and exchange of good practice is the way to go."
Why has it taken so long to target men?
"I think reluctantly women and women's organizations have conceded that without engaging men, their efforts are not going to be complete," said Assistant Secretary-General Rachel Mayanja, the U.N. special adviser on gender issues and the advancement of women.
"The secretary-general has offered to lead this Network of Men," she told AP. "It's a very positive development. He's using his moral authority to invite like-minded men and boys to engage in this campaign to eradicate violence against women."
On The Web: endviolence.un.org